Conserving the Hinde’s Babbler in Mumoni and Mutitu

Local communities living near important natural habitats play a crucial role in conserving the unique wildlife found in these areas. Many wild animals in Kenya, including birds, live outside protected areas, in the community or privately owned land. By monitoring the state of birds and their habitats, these communities contribute immensely to tending to nature.

Birds are good indicators of the health of our environment. They are widespread, easy to spot and are considered important in cultures of various communities.

Hinde’s Babbler is a rare bird found only in Kenya. This bird is threatened and occurs in fragmented populations within a 1,900km2 range in Meru, Embu, Nyeri, Muranga, Kiambu, Nairobi, Machakos and Kitui counties. Hinde’s Babblers live in groups, occupying a specific territory in thickets and woodlands in semi-arid areas and moist, fertile land cleared for farming but with fragments of shrub thickets. In eastern Kitui, Hinde’s Babblers live in Mumoni and Mutitu Hills Forest Reserves and surrounding valleys dominated by Lantana camara and indigenous thickets.

Communities in these two sites are undertaking several initiatives to conserve the Hinde’s Babbler and its habitat. Working closely with Nature Kenya and the National Museums of Kenya, members of the Mumoni and Mutitu Site Support Groups (SSGs) have mapped areas where the birds live. Constant monitoring of these areas is ongoing to observe any changes or disturbunces. In addition, the two SSGs are conducting public awareness sessions within their localities. These sessions seek to sensitize local communities on the importance of conserving the Hinde’s Babbler’s natural habitat.

Knowledge of the bird amongst the local communities is steadily increasing in Mumoni and Mutitu. This is exemplified by the communities’ willingness to maintain and restore suitable habitats for the birds. The SSGs are also actively engaged in forest restoration activities.

Saving Biodiversity: the world is trying to increase ambition

The world is trying to increase its ambition for safeguarding biodiversity. It is known that US$ 700 billion is needed annually. It is claimed that harmful subsidies worth US$ 500, especially in agriculture, need to be removed through sustainable pathways. If subsidies are removed, then US$ 200 billion annually is what will be required to finance the conservation of biodiversity.

If the world cannot be managed sustainably, more than US$ 700 billion must become available to deal with unsustainable production, including trade. Consumption patterns in developed countries are responsible for 50% of the threats to biodiversity in developing countries – mainly due to trade involving conversion of biodiversity habitats into commodities exported to wealthy recipient countries. 

International negotiations are not easy. Every government agrees that there is a problem and urgent solutions are needed. However, when governments meet and negotiations start, each party maintains a stance that makes it difficult to converge to an agreement. 

Nature Kenya Director Paul Matiku is a member of the Africa Group of Negotiators. As part of the Kenya Delegation to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) preparation meetings – Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI), Subsidiary Body on Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) and Open-ended Working Group on Implementation – between 14th to 29th March 2022, Dr Matiku developed the Africa position on Resource Mobilization. 

The Africa position calls for all countries to set aside 1% of their GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to raise the US$ 700 billion including US% 500 billion for removal of harmful subsidies. The position for Kenya and Africa also calls for equity by requesting the developed countries to contribute US$ 100 billion annually to developing countries as grants to help to protect biodiversity. Kenya also requests parties to agree to 1% of retail being contributed to biodiversity funds. 

The CBD preparatory meetings in Geneva ended on 29th March 2022 without agreement. There has been a great deal of negotiations but the documents, in particular the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, is full of brackets. As a result, the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework has proposed to hold yet another meeting in Nairobi from 21st to 26th June 2022 to further promote consensus on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. 

Unfortunately, biodiversity conservation is no longer about vision and passion, but financing. The Convention on Biological Diversity’s 15th Conference of Parties (CoP) is to be held in Kunming, China in August 2022, subject to Covid. Will the world agree on an ambitious plan that is financed sufficiently to bend the curve and slow the loss of biodiversity? Please look at the international section of Nature Net each month for any updates.

Nature Kenya urges all governments of the world to ensure biodiversity action is transformative. Business as usual will not bend the curve.

Monitoring the Abbott’s Starling in Mt. Kenya

 Kenya is home to 46 globally threatened bird species. These birds live and breed in various sites scattered across the country; or spend time in Kenya during their migrations. Monitoring of threatened bird species is a critical conservation action Nature Kenya is undertaking with the assistance of local community volunteers referred to as site support groups (SSGs). 

The Mt. Kenya Biodiversity Conservation Group (Mt. KEBIO) is the SSG for Mt. Kenya Important Bird Area (IBA), now considered a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA). This SSG is actively engaged in numerous activities to conserve the site’s unique habitats and species. 

Abbott’s Starlings are among the threatened bird species that call Mt. Kenya home. This rare blue-black and creamy white bird only lives in some tropical moist montane forests in Kenya and Tanzania, with its population on a decline. In 2021, the Abbott’s Starling was uplisted to Endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. According to BirdLife International, between 1,000 – 2,500 individuals are remaining. Forest loss and degradation are listed as the major threats to the bird’s survival. 

Last year, Mt. KEBIO conducted monitoring of the Abbott’s Starling in Castle forest on the southern slopes of Mt. Kenya. The objective was to establish the status of the bird’s estimated population and the condition of its habitat in the forest block. A monitoring team, comprising of members of Mt. KEBIO and Castle Community Forest Association (CFA), Nature Kenya and Kenya Forest Service (KFS) officers, and birders and guides from Castle Forest Lodge, undertook the exercise on four separate days in August, September and December 2021. 

Interactions with local bird guides proved helpful. The guides provided invaluable insights into the Abbott’s Starling’s behaviour patterns. From their observations, Abbott’s and Waller’s starlings are commonly spotted together in Castle forest. The two species prefer nesting in cleavages of dead trees. According to the local bird guides, the best times to see the Abbott’s Starling at Castle forest are 7:00 to 10:00 in the mornings and 3:00 to 5:00 in the evenings. 

Other birds observed during the monitoring exercise included African Green Pigeon, White-headed Wood Hoopoe, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Kikuyu (Montane) White-eye, and Mountain Wagtail, among others. 

Famous for its breathtaking landscapes, the Mt. Kenya ecosystem is also a significant contributor to Kenya’s economy. Its forest catchment is a source of water for domestic use, agriculture, hydropower generation and industrial use. Deforestation remains the greatest threat facing the Mt. Kenya forest. 

 Established in 1999, Mt. KEBIO has been championing the conservation of biodiversity in the Mt. Kenya ecosystem. The group is undertaking several conservation activities such as forest habitat restoration, biodiversity monitoring and environmental education and awareness creation. Mt. KEBIO plans to make monitoring of the Abbott’s Starling at Castle forest a regular activity. 

Covid 19: Moving on

February 2022 was a month for wetlands. The World Wetlands Day was celebrated on 2.2.22. Nature Kenya joined the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to raise the profile of Ondiri Swamp, the source of Athi River. Athi River water is said to be contaminated with metals, pharmaceuticals and human waste rendering the water unfit for use by people, livestock and wildlife downstream. The awareness raising events at Ondiri Swamp included a bird walk led by Richard Kipng’eno and Peter Muriithi of Nature Kenya. 

Nature Kenya Site Support Groups celebrated at their respective sites in style. The Yala Ecosystem Site Support Group collaborated with the Siaya County Government to raise awareness for the sustainable management of Yala Swamp – Kenya’s largest freshwater wetland. The wetland faces a myriad threats; over-exploitation of its natural resources is one major threat. Nature Kenya worked with local communities and the Siaya and Busia county governments to develop a Land Use Plan to balance the various interests within the wetland. Nature Kenya, through funding from the Darwin Initiative, convinced the Busia County Members of the County Assembly to approve the Land Use Plan to ensure development overall is sustainable and compatible with biodiversity protection. Nature Kenya also mobilized communities in Yala, who have submitted requests to Kenya Wildlife Service and the Siaya County Government to consider the listing of Yala Swamp under the Ramsar Convention. 

In the Tana River Delta, the Tana Delta Conservation Network (TDCN) and the County Governments of Tana River and Lamu brought together local people and decision makers to raise the profile of Tana Delta – a vast seasonal wetland complex on the Kenyan coast of national and global importance. Nature Kenya is currently involved in the implementation of the Tana River Delta Land Use Plan (LUP). The LUP’s implementation process seeks to ensure that biodiversity needs are considered in the planning of development activities within the Delta. As part of the implementation of the Land Use Plan, Nature Kenya is supporting the designation of Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) to conserve important cultural values and biodiversity and also promote ecotourism. Nature Kenya is also spearheading Green Value Chains and forest landscape restoration in the Delta under the Tana River Delta Restoration Initiative funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In February, Tana River County gazetted the Green Heart Committee, a new institution that will oversee sustainable land management for nature and people in the Delta. 

Many businesses have also recognized the need for ‘Green Recovery’. Kenya Breweries Limited, for instance, joined Nature Kenya to raise awareness for wetland conservation through an article published in the Sunday Standard under the name of Paul Matiku. Kenya Breweries is leading business efforts to restore Mt Kenya forests to enhance water quantity and quality. Coca-Cola Beverages Africa – Kenya has joined this tree planting effort and more partners are invited to join. 

At other sites, Site Support Groups celebrated the World Wetlands Day in their own style. Waterfowl counts were conducted by Nature Bogoria, Friends of Dunga Swamp, Lake Elmenteita Ecosystem Community Based Organization (LECBO). The Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO) counted birds at Manguo swamp. Data collected from the counts will be collated, analyzed, published and used to inform conservation actions. 

In Dakatcha, members of the Dakatcha Woodland Conservation Group conducted detailed monitoring for the Kilifi (Clarke’s) Weaver. The SSG members observed around 300 weavers flying among Brachystegia trees near Gandi wetland. 

On the policy front, we sincerely thank members for signing the Nature Kenya petition against the proposed amendment to the Forest Act. Nature Kenya coordinated Site Support Groups and Community Forest Associations who submitted their petitions against the proposed amendment. If the law is amended as proposed, the Kenya Forest Service will have no say in alteration of forest boundaries. Under the current law, any change of forest boundary has to be advised by the Kenya Forest Service based on an Environmental Impact Assessment. If you know someone who knows an influential person, please ask them to say NO! 

In March 2022, membership activities will continue in adherence to the Covid-19 protocols as follows:

  1. A members’ talk titled ‘The role of forensic entomology in the criminal justice system in Kenya’ will take place virtually on 18th of March.
  2. The ‘Lungs for Kenya’ charity Golf tournament is scheduled to take place on 25th March 2022 at the Karen Country Club. Book your slot to participate by contacting Gloria Waswa Membership and Marketing Manager at
  3. Wednesday Morning Birdwalks and Third Sunday Birdwatch in Nairobi and Thursday afternoon and Fourth Saturday bird walks in Malindi continue with caution. See back page for details.
  4. The Nature Kenya Sales and Membership office will be open to members on weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please wear masks, sanitize and keep social distance.
  5. Online membership functions to continue: membership can be renewed online or via M-Pesa. Books, honey, etc. may be purchased online or with M-Pesa (Paybill 100300, account “books” or “honey”) and collected from the membership office between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  6. Members will continue to receive an electronic version of the Nature Net. A hard copy of Nature Net can be posted or collected from the office by request to or telephone 0726 134029.
  7. The Nature Kenya conservation office remains closed. Physical conservation meetings in Nairobi and other Covid hotspots to be avoided unless absolutely critical.
  8. The EANHS/NMK Library is open. Museum galleries and sites are open to the public under Ministry of Health guidelines.

For clarifications or to report your observations on species and sites, kindly contact us through email: or telephone: 020 3537568, 0780 149200, 0751 624312, 0771 343138 

Dr Paul Matiku,

Executive Director, Nature Kenya – the East Africa Natural History Society 

We SAY NO to the proposed amendment to the Forest Act

Why do members of parliament want to condemn Kenya and the world to an unbearably hot future by weakening the Forest Act?

 Nature Kenya OBJECTS to the proposed amendment to the Forest Conservation and Management Act contained in an amendment Bill 2021 published by Moses Cheboi, Chairperson of the Procedures and Rules Committee.

 According to the existing law a forest boundary can only be amended based on stakeholder consultations, environmental impact assessment report and recommendations to parliament by the Kenya Forest Service. The proposed amendment isseeking to take away the powers of the Kenya Forest Service. Instead, it allows anyone to petition for a boundary change to the Clerk of the National Assembly.

The world is burning and forests are one tool to reduce the heat. It is dangerous to weaken the laws that protect our forests. It is dangerous to entrust the remaining forests to parliamentarians alone. World nations just agreed in the 2021 Climate Change meeting (CoP 26) to protect, conserve and increase tropical forests in order to reduce climate change. Kenya promised to halt deforestation by 2030.

Removing Kenya Forest Service from decisions on forest boundaries is ill advised, ill-timed and will expose Kenya’s forests to greedy individuals whose actions could damage Kenya's water catchment areas, hydro-electricity, irrigated food and thereby human well-being and economic development.

Nature Kenya – the East Africa Natural History Society – strongly OBJECTS to the proposed amendment to repeal section 34 (2A) of the Forest Conservation and Management Act 2016. It reads:

 A petition under subsection (1) shall only be forwarded to the National Assembly on the recommendation of the Service (Kenya Forest Service”.

This MUST be kept in the forest law.

We urgently urge Kenyans to SAY NO to this amendment bill! 

Reasons for Nature Kenya’s Objection:

  1. Deletion of section 34 (2A) will reverse the gains made over the past 15 years in restoring our public forests and water catchment areas. This compromises the protection of these forests, denying Kenyans access to forest goods and services that are critical to their survival.
  2. Amendment will reduce the forests land size contrary to the government's forest land reclamation policy that seeks to increase tree cover.
  3. The amendment is detrimental to forest conservation efforts in Kenya. This includes the implementation of the National Tree Planting Campaign (NTPC), a high priority Government-driven initiative seeking to achieve and maintain over 10% tree cover by 2022. If the bill is approved, the attention of implementing agencies will be diverted towards dealing with the anticipated influx of forest excision cases.
  4. The proposed bill negates the State’s constitutional obligation to protect the environment as stipulated in Article 69 (1g) of eliminating processes and activities that are likely to endanger the environment.
  5. The proposed bill sets a bad precedent. The Taskforce Report on Forest Resource Management and Logging Activities in Kenya 2018 (pages 36-41) cited human settlement and encroachment as one of the major threats to biodiversity loss in Kenya. The passage of the amendment bill amounts to setting a bad precedent which will see gazetted forest areas exposed to the risk of degazettment and further invasion.
  6. The proposed amendment bill does not consider all necessary social, economic and environmental safeguards.  It presents a possible violation of the rights and wishes of communities through Local Forest Conservation Committees.
  7. The proposed amendment bill contravenes Kenya's international commitments on landscape restoration and climate change mitigation:
  • Kenya is a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) among other international commitments to safeguard biodiversity. During UNFCCCs COP 26 in Glasgow on 2nd November 2021, Kenya joined other countries in committing to the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forest and Land Use which seeks to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. Making a statement during a COP 26 World Leaders Summit Plenary Session, President Uhuru Kenyatta affirmed Kenya’s commitment to restore degraded water towers, accelerate forest restoration and increase tree cover to at least 10% of the country’s land area.
  • As a state party to the Paris Agreement, Kenya recently adjusted its Nationally Determined Contribution target of emission reduction to 32% from 30% by 2030. The National Climate Change Action Plan 2018 – 2022 cites deforestation as the second largest contributor to Kenya’s greenhouse gases emissions after agriculture. The action plan further recognizes the country’s forest sector as having the greatest potential of reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to other mitigation sectors.
  • Kenya ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This Convention is working towards reducing the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests. The Convention also seeks to bring habitat loss close to zero, where feasible, and significantly reduce degradation and fragmentation. The National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan 2019 – 2030 was developed following the objectives of the CBD. In this action plan, Kenya has committed to bringing close to zero the rate of loss of all natural habitats including forests by 2030. This also entails significantly reducing the degradation and fragmentation of these habitats by 2030. Another specific target is to increase the country’s forest cover to at least 10% of the land area.
  • Other commitments made by Kenya include:
  • Commitment to contribute towards UN Decade on Ecosystem restoration (2021-2030),
  • Bonn challenge; African region initiative called the Africa Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR 100), Kenya has committed to restoring 5.1 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2030
  • Commitment to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification to achieve Land degradation neutrality by 2030.